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An operator of a motor vehicle who permits himself to fall asleep while driving is guilty of ordinary negligence if he has continued to drive without taking reasonable precautions against sleeping after premonitory symptoms of drowsiness or fatigue.
The person's decedent died in consequence of injuries suffered when her automobile, operated by the driver, collided with a utility pole. The trial court found that the sole cause of the accident was the fact that the driver dozed off to sleep and did not awaken in time to avoid collision with the pole and under all the circumstances this was not anything different than what the ordinary man of average prudence would have done. The trial court found that the driver was not negligent.
Did the trial court err in assessing the driver's care solely with reference to what occurred after he took the wheel, in disregard of the evidence of advance warning which he had just prior thereto?
The court ruled that the trial court erred in the application of the law to the evidence. The evidence disclosed ample warning to the driver that he might fall asleep. Under these circumstances, a finding that after taking over the wheel, the driver had suddenly and unexpectedly dozed at the time of the accident could not have been sustained. Such an occurrence could not have been unexpected in the absence of precaution to prevent it. It was error to judge the driver's care solely with reference to what occurred after he took the wheel, in disregard of the evidence of advance warning which he had just prior thereto.